My San Francisco mileage run got off to such a great start! Captain Don was fabulous and made my flight to DFW memorable. I knew this was going to be a great day and an outstanding mileage run! How wrong I was.

My itinerary would take me from Austin to Dallas, then on to Boston. In Boston I would get a flight to San Francisco; with AA offering triple miles on west coast flights from Boston, I had to take advantage of it. I’d take the red-eye out of SFO that night back to DFW, and be back in Austin at 9 a.m. Sunday morning. At least that was the plan.

My DFW-BOS flight was scheduled to depart at 12:35 and would arrive in BOS at 5:25 p.m; my SFO flight would leave 1 hour and 10 minutes later. I thought that would be enough time to make the connection.

The Bad

I went to gate D37 at DFW for the BOS flight. At 12 noon, we had not started to board. At 12:10 still no boarding. At 12:15 my cell phone rang, telling me there was a gate change to D40. (Why did I get the call? Because I had registered for AA flight notifications, one of the best services AA offers. It lets me know about gate changes, changes in departure times, etc. frequently before they are announced at the gate. I sign up for it before every flight as you should.) We all moved down three gates where a different aircraft was waiting for us. At 12:20 we were still not boarding; the gate agent explained that the plane had just gotten in from Calgary and the passengers were just now getting off. Uh oh, doesn’t look like we’ll be leaving at 12:35.

At 12:30 the gate agent announced our new departure time, 12:57 and said the additional delay was because the plane was an international arrival, requiring additional security measures. I wasn’t very concerned about this, the new time was only 27 minutes after our scheduled departure, I’d have no problem making my connection in Boston.

What followed was an absurd period where Murphy’s Law came true: anything that can go wrong will go wrong! I’ll let the timeline speak for itself (remember that the flight was supposed to leave at 12:35):

  • 12:30 – Passengers finally deplane at D40, our new departure time of 12:57 was announced.
  • 1:00 – We finally board the aircraft
  • 1:15 – We’ve all boarded, they’ve closed the doors, but the plane has not backed away from the gate. The pilot announces that there is no ground crew to help with the push-back; there had been a fuel spill at an adjacent gate and all the ground personnel were working that issue and would continue to work it until the EPA approved the clean-up.
  • 1:20 – Pilot has good news for us, it was not a fuel spill but a leaking toilet at the other gate, so we will be able to get ground personnel to help us depart.
  • 1:25 – Still sitting at gate.
  • 1:35 – The plane was finally pushed back from the gate, but once the tractor pulled away from us, we did not move. We sat there for another ten minutes, and I was getting concerned about making my connection in Boston.
  • 2:00 – One hour after boarding we finally taxied to the runway and were #3 to depart. But now the pilot announces that there is an Air Traffic Control (ATC) delay due to bad weather near DFW. The controllers are requiring ten miles between each aircraft, so there will be an additional delay until we take off.
  • 2:05 – Pilot announces that ATC has told him there is additional bad weather over the Southeast, and orders him to shut down the engines. He apologizes for the delay.
  • 2:10 – Pilot gets permission to restart the engines.
  • 2:15 – We take off for Boston.

We were now 1 hour and 40 minutes late and I knew there was no chance I would make the San Francisco flight at 6:35. I told the flight attendant (FA) about my connection, she said she would see what they could do, maybe the SFO flight would be delayed too. The people sitting in the row in front of me had a similar problem; they were scheduled to take a 6:40 flight from Boston to Paris and it looked like they would miss it too.

Fortunately for me, I had downloaded an electronic copy of the AA flight schedule earlier in the week and saw that there was a flight from Boston to Los Angeles at 7:25, maybe I could get rerouted to that one.

The flight to Boston went smoothly and I was surprised at 6:15 when the pilot announced that we had found a 108 knot tailwind, averaged over 600 miles per hour, and would be landing in 20 minutes.

Twenty minutes? That would put us down at 6:35, the time my SFO flight was scheduled to depart. If they could hold it for a few moments, I’d be able to make the connection! Luggage would not be an issue, I only had my carry-on. I spoke to the FA as did the people going to Paris, and reminded her about our very tight connections. The pilot even announced that he knew there were people trying to connect to Paris and San Francisco and he would try to get us there on time for the transfer.

The Ugly
We touched down at 6:30. I turned on my cell phone and got a flight status update: my SFO flight would leave at 6:35 from gate 34. The FA announced that we would arrive at gate 36, the gate next to my connecting flight! I might make it!

As we pulled up to the terminal I saw my flight at the gate, the boarding ramp had not been pulled away, I would make the connection! All they needed to do was give me enough time to go from one gate to the next one!

We pulled up to our gate at 6:35 and as people started to get off my plane, I was sickened to see my San Francisco flight push back from the terminal and depart! Just as that happened, the FA announced on the public address system that the Paris flight had already left, but the SFO flight was at the gate next to us. Apparently, she did not see it leave.

This made no sense to me. I had told the flight staff about my connection; our crew knew what time we would land. All they needed to do was ask the other plane to hold for an additional five minutes and I would have made the flight. I don’t know if they didn’t ask, or they did and the request was ignored, but either way, I missed my flight, as did the Paris passengers. I can understand the SFO flight leaving if I was 90 minutes late, but cannot comprehend why it could not wait for just five more minutes. I can think of countless times that I have sat in a plane past the departure time as we waited for connecting passengers, particularly when the flight is the last one of the day, as the SFO flight was.

I got off the plane and went to the Admirals Club to see if the AAngels behind the counter could re-route me to Los Angeles. I had to wait a while because they were busy trying to reroute the Paris passengers to JFK for a flight to France.

The Good
When it was my turn, I explained to them what I wanted to do, they checked the schedule and said they could get me to Los Angeles, and then send me to Dallas and then home to Austin. Great! The only problem was they had the difficult task of getting my involuntary reroute correctly entered in the computer with the proper codes.

As they tried, I heard the announcement that Group 1 for Los Angeles was boarding, then Group 2. The AAngels tried a different code, but it would not go through. Now Group 3 was boarding. One more try on the computer, but again it did not go through. By now Group 4 was boarding, so the ladies gave me a boarding pass to LAX and told me I could get my additional passes at the Admirals Club in Los Angeles, they would make the appropriate entries to make sure it would go through.

I thanked them, ran to the gate and boarded. I was on the exit row with a middle seat. I started to talk to the man next to me; it turned out that he too was doing a mileage run, flying from Boston to Los Angeles and back. The one way ticket was on sale for only $79 — combine that with double EQMs and triple miles, and it was an offer he could not refuse. In fact, he was also going to do the trip again on the next two weekends.

We had a smooth flight to Los Angeles as my new friend and I traded mileage run stories and solved all the problems of the world for the next six hours. We parted ways at Los Angeles and I went to the Admirals Club.

The AAngel there was able to issue me my boarding passes back to Austin. At 12:10 a.m. I was on a flight back to DFW.

We landed 15 minutes early at 4:45 a.m. At 5:00 the McDonalds in the food court opened and I was able to get my first meal in quite a while. At 5:30 the Admirals Club opened and I was able to take a long hot shower. After all that had gone on, it felt great!

My flight to Austin was scheduled to depart DFW at 8:00 a.m. We boarded and waited for our departure. At 7:55, the FA announced that there would be a delay. After all the delays the day before, I wondered what the reason could be this time. I have to admit I was not expecting what she said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we will be delayed until we can find a pilot. He was supposed to be here by now but isn’t. We’ll wait for him but will also try to find another pilot to get us to Austin.” No pilot? That’s a new one!

At 8:10 he arrived and we took off at 8:25, landing in Austin shortly after 9 a.m. The Good-Bad-Ugly mileage run was over. The delay in Dallas was bad, the missed connection in Boston was ugly, but the assistance from the ladies at the Admirals Club was very good!

It was a tiring and frustrating weekend. But, if my math is correct, I earned almost 13,000 EQMs and over 15,000 total miles. That was worth it. I now have enough miles in my AAdvantage account that I could tell me wife to look at the AA flight schedule and choose where in the world to go for her birthday. We have enough miles to fly anywhere on the OneWorld system in either First Class or Business Class. That makes it all worthwhile to me